|A major anti-war rally is planned for Calgary on January 17 as part of an international protest against a potential American-led invasion of Iraq, but a Calgary expert says it may already be too late for Canada to avoid fighting in any war in the Middle East.
The rally is being organized locally by the Canadian Network to End Sanctions in Iraq (CANESI). CANESI's Julie Hrdlicka says the goal of the protest is twofold to urge the Canadian government to stand against war in Iraq, and to inform Calgarians about their reasons for supporting peace.
"Our main focus is to try and get the message out to the average Calgarian that this war is wrong," Hrdlicka says. "Average people who have never been involved in this kind of thing before are calling me and saying that they support what we're doing. They don't agree with this war."
Hrdlicka says concern for the plight of Iraqi people is her main reason for opposing the war. She worries that hundreds of thousands of Iraqis will be killed after facing more than a decade of strict economic sanctions that have crippled the country.
Anti-war activists, however, are facing some tough questions. Support for the war within the Iraqi community itself is split between those against the war and those who think deposing Iraqi ruler Saddam Hussein will ultimately benefit the country.
Hrdlicka says she also supports a regime change, but one that comes from within Iraq something that can only happen if economic sanctions against the country are lifted.
"An illegal unilateral attack is certainly not going to help the region," Hrdlicka says. "I think a regime change would help
but I would only support a regime change that comes from within the country."
David Bercuson, the director of the University of Calgary's Strategic Studies Program, says peace rallies may impact the international political situation because they make governments think about support for war within their own country.
"(Protests) show governments that there are many Canadians who are willing to go out there and make their views known," Bercuson says. "I think it has had an impact on many European governments on the question of Iraq."
Bercuson says despite the protest, Canada may already be committed to an attack on Iraq because a Canadian warship has joined the American military build-up in the Persian Gulf.
"That Canadian frigate is not there in some token way
. It's there in place of an American one," Bercuson says. He says Canada could still choose to withdraw if an American invasion goes ahead, but it would have huge consequences for Canadian-American military co-operation in the future.
For his part, Bercuson, a noted conservative thinker, says he supports an invasion of Iraq, but only if Canadian self-interest is at stake and thats something he doesn't think exists at this point because there is no proof that Iraq is a real threat to Canada.
"I think it would take some kind of miracle if (United Nations weapons inspectors) stumble on some underground nuclear arsenal or something," Bercuson says. "So I think it's going to be a much more nuanced situation."
Hrdlicka says the rally will take place at city hall on January 17 beginning at 2:30 p.m.